Life is what happens to you
when you're busy making other plans.
-- John Lennon
“You’re so controlling!” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard my husband exclaim this in exasperation. Adult children of alcoholics like me are notorious for attempting to control people and things in their environment.
My poor husband is often at the wrong end of my controlling behavior. I want to monitor how much he works, how much television he watches, and how he does his job as a father. He should be paying more attention to me. I also want to control my daughter — what she eats and what she wears. She must be healthy and socialized.
When I am controlling, I am trying to make everything all right because I don’t know and don’t trust that everything really is all right. It seems to me, now, that the need to feel in control is essentially a by-product of lacking trust in life.
As a species, humans love control. We want to control our environment, physical and emotional safety, financial security, and self-image. We want to control others or be controlled by them. We create roles, habits, rules, and personal and political systems that reﬂect our need to control. We’re good at this, and a lot of it is necessary to establish basic order and a healthy status quo.
The Need for Control Gets Us In Trouble
Yet this same passion for control gets us into trouble as individuals and as a species. If we do not exercise wisdom, control can easily become addiction, tyranny, and repression. We find ourselves rebelling against excessive control with a cry of “Freedom!” We take refuge in creative chaos. Yet if we are serious about manifesting our ideas in the world around us, we need to re-create some structure that doesn’t stiﬂe or control us.
If you are serious about discovering and fulfilling your purpose, you must establish a right relationship with control on every level of your being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Having some control over your world is a foundation upon which to dance with life’s spontaneity.
You Can Have Your Feelings and Share Them Too!
Life’s creative unpredictability is both unsettling and delicious. We really have no control over most of it. But we can trust life anyway, if we come into a correct relationship with control on an emotional level. There’s nothing you can’t handle — as long as you can have your feelings and share them with others.
People, jobs, and homes will come and go in your life, bringing up lots of feelings. Everyone has a cache of buried pain, waiting to erupt to the surface, asking for healing. Our organism is always yearning toward health and wholeness, and our life situations will repeat the drama of our early wounds until we fully feel and heal them. If you realize that your pain is a gift, and if you are determined to trust life, you can use your time and resources to feel your pain and heal from it, instead of avoiding it with an addiction.
Some people need to exert more control over their feelings because they are awash in emotion. They need to learn to contain their feelings and discipline themselves to bring focus to their bodies, minds, and spirits.
Changing Our Point of View and Our Expectations
You always have one power that no one can take away from you: the power to change your point of view. This is the way to have control on a mental level. We cannot control life, but we can cancel our expectations. We can accept that, in some inexplicable way, all is well — even when things are not going as we expect them to. This is an empowering perspective you can adopt in any circumstance. It will keep you from slipping into a victim role.
I met a woman the other day who really understands this. She is so alive and excited about her journey and the mysterious, inevitable unfolding of God’s plan for her life. Last year she suddenly lost her job of eighteen years in a company reorganization. Instead of blaming her superiors, she could hardly keep from smiling and exulting. God must have a wonderful surprise in store, to move her along so abruptly!
The insecurity most people have about their jobs could be a blessing in disguise. Previously stable companies are merging, disappearing, and reincarnating all over the place, forcing thousands of people to abandon their belief in an external source of control and security.
These people must turn to inner resources of serenity amid a sea of change. They are starting to listen to spiritual impulses for a new direction in their lives. Security always has been a very temporal thing, subject to change. Serenity in the face of the fluctuation of the things that are beyond our control is a much more precious commodity — and we can always choose to have it.
Letting Go of Control and Following Our Spiritual Impulses
This is self-control. Self-control on a spiritual level means being willing to let go of control and follow our spiritual impulses. This is different from the scattered, uninformed impulsiveness of an immature person who is afraid to think through consequences. It is different from compulsion, which is rigid, repetitive, and familiar. Our inner being constantly communicates its desire and direction through spontaneous impulses.
These impulses come to us as a ﬂash in our mind’s eye. We might hear a little voice in our minds saying, Why don’t you... ? At times it is an un-self-conscious, compassionate reaching out to touch someone we hardly know.
When we act upon divine impulse, we step across the gap of the unknown into a new realm. Like a mountain climber in the crystalline air, we exist only in the present moment. We have a quiet mind and relaxed concentration. For a moment, we suspend judgment and concerns about outcomes and follow our impulse with trust and detachment.
This willingness to walk through the doorway of possibility brings adventures to life. We open up to receive from God more than we can imagine creating on our own.
©1992, 2008, 2013 by Mary Hayes Grieco. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission from Atria Books/
Beyond Words Publishing. www.beyondword.com
The New Kitchen Mystic: A Companion for Spiritual Explorers
by Mary Hayes Grieco.
About the Author
Mary Hayes Grieco is a respected spiritual teacher based in Minneapolis, MN. An original and expansive thinker, a pragmatic emotional healer, and an uplifting public speaker, Mary has inspired thousands of people since she first began teaching spirituality classes in 1982. Mary has served on staff at the Hazelden Treatment Center for over sixteen years, and at The University of St. Thomas' Management Center. She is the director and lead trainer of The Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training, providing programs for the general public, for mental health professionals, for future trainers of this work, and serious students of self mastery. Visit her website at www.maryhayesgrieco.com.
Watch a video with Mary Hayes Grieco: Forgiveness and Your Health
as well as: The Eight Steps of Forgiveness (Live Demonstration)